Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain (3 HR, 18 HR, .296 BA) is batting at a .325 clip with three homers, four steals and 17 RBI since July 7.
The following slideshow touts the top 10 waiver-wire pickups right now, recognizing the best free agents from the majority of 12-team roto leagues.
For the most part, this list rewards players who have already fostered productive starts to the 2012 season.
Savvy readers will notice the rankings are different from last week's offering. These changes can be attributed to the waiver-wire graduations of Matt Harvey, Josh Rutledge, Lucas Harrell, Yonder Alonso, Brennan Boesch or Aaron Harang—forgotten (or largely ignored) assets on draft day, but now contributing pieces with their current teams.
That's how it should be with this countdown: Here today, gone tomorrow.
Enjoy the show!
Skinny: Chris Tillman may never live up to the hype of being an elite prospect before the 2009 season, but he's far from a lost cause in the majors at age 24.
Since earning an MLB promotion in early July, Tillman boasts a 4-1 record, 2.70 ERA and 1.31 WHIP.
Of equal importance, he's allowed just two or less walks four times in that span—a substantial hurdle to clear in light of Tillman's 1.51 at Triple-A Norfolk last year.
Put it all together, and Tillman isn't the sexiest of waiver-wire commodities, but he'll get the job done as a No. 7 starter from this point forward.
Skinny: Here's where it pays to be ignorant and/or apathetic in the fantasy realm:
I don't know or really care why Scott Feldman has suddenly morphed into Colby Lewis, holding the Red Sox, Royals and White Sox to just three earned runs in three starts (22.2 innings).
I'm just happy to see the Rangers' starting rotation (which now features Ryan Dempster) staying afloat during this crucial stretch. And Feldman should play a prominent role with this homer-happy club.
Skinny: For a fourth-place club that's sitting 14 games below .500 (as of Aug. 5), the Twins are certainly an intriguing bunch to monitor in the fantasy realm.
For example, the closer-by-committee dynamic between Glen Perkins (2-1, 3.17 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 6 saves) and Jared Burton (1-0, 2.25 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 5 saves) is a hard one to characterize, since both relievers have been remarkably effective when handed the ball in the ninth inning.
But when in doubt, always ride the reliever who's sporting a sub-1.00 ERA and WHIP in the last 30 days (Burton).
It also helps that Burton is currently logging the closer reps in Minnesota, although there's no telling how long this random platoon will last.
Skinny: If we were staring at four more months of the fantasy season, I'd probably recommend Rickie Weeks (three homers, .319 batting since July 21) over Starling Marte from a utility slot standpoint.
But at this point, fantasy owners are looking for high-upside guys who can finish strong in August and September, just like Mike Trout or Brett Lawrie last season.
So, what to make of Marte, whose pre-promotion hype might have exceeded that of Andrew McCutchen before the presumptive National League MVP made his own MLB debut in June 2009?
At Double-A Altoona (Pa.) last year, Marte stole 24 bases and batted .332. At Triple-A Indianapolis for April, May and June (2012), he cracked 12 homers and registered 21 thefts in just 99 games.
And since his big-league call-up on July 26, Marte has two homers, two steals and four multiple-hit games.
In other words, he's done enough to maintain his spot as a No. 6 outfielder in 12-team leagues.
Skinny: Only two plausible scenarios should preclude fantasy owners from acquiring Michael McKenry (.405 batting since July 7) in 12-, 14- or 16-team leagues:
1. They're set at catcher and have no available roster space for a hitter who won't bring much to the table in steals (and runs, to a lesser degree).
2. An owner has a glass-ceiling quota of Pirates hitters on their 25-man rosters.
Aside from that, McKenry (eight homers and 22 RBI since June 26) could be a great piece in roto and weekly leagues, assuming he logs four starts per week. Since late June, his batting average has vaulted from .238 to .285 (47-point jump).
Of equal importance, teammate Rod Barajas is mired in a .152 funk over the last 30 days, a strong indication of more McKenry at-bats for August and September.
Skinny: Fantasy owners, if you're exclusively chasing strikeouts before Monday's slate of games, Ross Detwiler is not your guy.
But if you're looking for stealth production in wins, ERA and WHIP, Detwiler (1.75 ERA, 1.01 WHIP since July 7) is an ideal No. 6 starter in 12-team leagues.
Solid, consistent production.
And with the notion of Stephen Strasburg's shut-down threshold of 160 innings (or something like that) hanging over the Nationals like the Sword of Damocles, Detwiler is virtually guaranteed a healthy turn in the rotation from this point forward.
Skinny: It's easy to look past Joe Blanton's run-related foibles after studying his remarkably consistent numbers in two major categories:
Since May 14, Blanton (8-9, 4.52 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 120/21 K-BB) is a scintillating 14-for-15 in allowing two or less walks per start. And from June 3-July 28, Blanton (then with Philly) maintained a superb streak of six, seven or eight strikeouts in 10 straight outings.
Blanton has cleaned up from a 30-day perspective as well. For the month of July, the right-hander notched one victory, a 3.82 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and excellent strikeout-to-walk ratio (33/5).
So, does it matter that Blanton now dons a Dodgers uniform instead of Phillies garb?
Call me naive, but going from one National League franchise to another shouldn't be a big deal for veterans—especially those with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Shane Victorino patrolling their new outfield.
Skinny: Oh, those crafty Diamondbacks!
Just a week into their pre-deadline acquisition of Chris Johnson, the ex-Astro has already racked up three homers and 10 RBI.
But his contribution has hardly been a feast-or-famine occurrence. Since July 21, Johnson (with Houston and Arizona) has seven multiple-hit games, 16 RBI and a robust .408 batting average.
Bottom line: Bolstered by hitting stalwarts Justin Upton, Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Montero, Aaron Hill, Chris Young and Jason Kubel (the July homer champ), Johnson should enjoy a steady stream of quality pitches over the next two months.
In fact, it must be one of the most pleasantly surreal experiences to go from arguably the best hitter on a wretched squad to the No. 6 or 7 bat on a club that ranks third in RBI and fourth in runs, among National League teams.
Skinny: Just like with Starling Marte, early August isn't a time to nickel and dime your way to fantasy success—unless you're holding a comfy lead in the pennant chase.
You want a ground-floor acquisition with a demonstrated track record for 30 steals and a .320 batting average in the minors?
Look no further than the 25-year-old Carrera, who celebrated his first MLB weekend by crushing Tigers pitching for seven hits, one homer, one steal and an 1.167 OPS.
In fact, Carrera's rocket-blast home run off Joaquin Benoit was the calling card of a player with more raw power than his 20 minor league dingers (total) would indicate.
What does the immediate future hold for Carrera? Who knows. But he couldn't have made a stronger first impression.
Skinny: If Lorenzo Cain wasn't batting .400 since July 31 or .325 in the last 30 days, he'd still be the No. 1 asset in this week's countdown.
From a upside/maturity standpoint, no other player can match the immediate expectations for Cain, who missed a large chunk of the season to injury before rebounding in a substantial way.
Since July 13, Cain has three homers, four steals, nine multiple-hit games, 11 runs and 17 RBI, and to be frank, I fully expect the 26-year-old outfielder to post better numbers over the next 25 days.
Chalk it up to being in the zone or simply making up for lost time, but Cain is a must-have pickup for fantasy owners who crave explosive versatility at the No. 5 or 6 outfield slot.